52 Ancestors,
in 52 Weeks
Week 5:
So Far Away

Frank Flucawa, 1883-1974:
So Far Away

My great-uncle Frank immigrated to the United States from Japan in 1905 to further his education. [1] He started to study for a doctorate in theology, but never finished. I wrote a brief biographical sketch about him several years ago for his alma mater in Japan, you can read it here. [2] When I was a child, Frank was in his 80’s, home was New Castle, Indiana, not Tokyo. But when I asked about his life in Japan, I think it made him feel so far away.

Memorabilia

When we visited my great-uncle, one of my favorite things to do was sort through his box of old photos and letters. He had several photos of his classmates in Japan and postcards and letters they had sent him when he first immigrated. The cards and letters particularly fascinated me since they were written in Japanese.

There was one letter in particular that I asked about repeatedly. A five page letter, handwritten in Japanese characters, all neatly lined up vertically on the pages. Uncle Frank told me he could no longer read his native language, it had been too long since he used it regularly. So, why did he keep this letter? He told me it was from his brother, Okitaka Furukawa. Okitaka asked his brother about his life in America, about his wife (my Aunt Grace), and about his occupation and whether he could come “home” and bring his wife and follow his occupation in Japan. So far away

Frank Takeo Flucawa, 1883-1974
Postcard of Meiji Gakuin University 1905
Okitaka letter, page 1
Okitaka letter, page 2
Okitaka letter, page 3
Okitaka letter, page 4
Okitaka letter, page 5

Translation

I have tried unsuccessfully to find someone to translate this letter for me. The letter is a combination of the syllabic writing system, or Hiragana, and the more complex Kanji characters. There are thousands of Kanji characters representing a range of meanings and varied pronunciation depending on context. Today’s Japanese children learn about 2000 Kanji characters but there are as many as 50,000 in use. [3], [4] It’s no wonder Frank forgot how to read this very complex written language. If anyone is interested in taking on the challenge of translating this letter I am including a link to a plain scanned version and an OCR version both are PDFs.

Okitaka’s Letter

Download the 5 page letter from Okitaka Furukawa in PDF format.

Scanned Version

OCR version

EPILOGUE

I donated Frank’s old school photos to his alma mater Meiji Gakuin University, in Tokyo, for their 150th anniversary back in 2013. The school lost all their student photos, and other documents, in a fire in 1932 and have been re-building their archive in recent years. If anyone reading this has old photos of the school, contact me and I can put you in contact with the archivist. [5]

Frank Takeo Flucawa

Born Takeo Furukawa on 15 March 1883 in Tottori-Ken, Tokyo, Japan, little is documented of his early childhood. Family oral history stories say that the young Takeo experienced hunger, poverty and the loss of his family. Additionally, the stories tell of friendship, spiritual learning and scholarship.

David L. Osborne: His Indianapolis Homes

My great grandfather, David Louis Osborne, lived at over 20 addresses around Indianapolis between 1876 and 1942. I thought it would be interesting to see all the old buildings and homes where he lived in my hometown of Indianapolis.

The Marriage of David and Jennie Osborne

My great grandfather, David Louis Osborne (1848-1942), was a widower with two young sons in 1886 when he married Jennie Warbington (1857-1918) in Minneapolis on the 27th of May. I decided it was time to put sources to the story.

Do You See A Resemblance?

While working on a family photo project I decided it would be fun to compare side-by-side my father and his parents, at similar ages, to try and discover a family resemblance.

Probate of Jesse King 1868

Jesse King was born in Ohio (probably in the vicinity of Chillicothe) in 1805, he was a son of Philip King and Mary Leah Wright, both of Pennsylvania. Philip King was a farmer, he married Leah Wright in 1801 in Somerset, PA, they had six children, of whom Jesse was the third.

Letter from Sarah Tucker Lafary

A handwritten letter from Sarah Tucker Lafary to the then president of the United States, Grover Cleveland. It was her last appeal for a War of 1812 pension, sadly the pension was denied. The letter gives a glimpse of a woman who had no formal education, a poor farmers wife, then widow, mother of nine, she probably just wanted some independence through an income of her own.

Laferre to LaFara: Unusual Name

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 3: Unusual Name
The surnames in my tree are typical of common western European names. However, the name that is unusual among these names is MY surname: LaFara.

Admiral Byrd: I’d Like to Meet…

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 4: I’d Like to Meet…
Richard E. Byrd, my sixth cousin, 3 times removed, was a famous aviator, in 1929 he flew to the South Pole. His story inspired me when I was young.

Luella Pressell: Surprise!

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 6: Surprise!
Just when you think you know everything about an ancestor, surprise! I thought I knew most everything about my paternal great grandfather David L. Osborne, 1848-1942.

Rumple Family Photo 1895

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 8: Family Photo
For all of us who are procrastinating about labeling photos I have one thing to say, “Be considerate of the genealogist of the future!” My maternal grandmother was very good about labeling old family photos, and there is one in particular I found very informative.

Conrad Rumple: Bachelor Uncle

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 10: Bachelor Uncle
My uncles are the marrying kind, sometimes more than once!
I had to go back four generations for a bachelor uncle, my great-great-great uncle Conrad Rumple, 1833-1911.
Conrad was an older brother to my great-great grandfather on my matrilineal line, William Rumple, 1839-1912.

George Lafary and Catherine Landon: Large Family

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 11: Large Family
My great-great grandparents, George Lafary and Catherine Landon, had a relatively small family, three of their six children survived to adulthood. However, they both came from large families of nine siblings and nearly all survived to marry and have children.

In The Paper

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 13: In The Paper
It’s fun to find articles in the paper mentioning one of my relatives. Mostly they are birth, marriage, divorce and death events. But, it’s the oddball articles in the papers I like the most.

Genealogy Brick Walls

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 14: Brick Wall
We all have a brick wall, that one ancestor who defies all research. I decided I would work at my brick walls by generation, I broke through the last of my 3rd great grandparent brick walls, now I am working on 4th great grandparents.

Catherine Landon: Out of Place

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 16: Out of Place
I realized I did not have a date of death for my great, great grandmother, Catherine Landon Lafary. A fresh search uncovered the date and much more. Out of place, but once discovered, everything fell into place.